Confession 3: Exercise

Confession #3: I don't Like Exercise. I'm no Beth.

“Hi, Brandi! Do you want to go for a little run?” These are the words I could expect whenever I’d answer a phone call from my friend Beth. Beth, the one who set a goal to run marathons in every state. Beth is built like a graceful doe, whereas I have more of a kangaroo-like build. By “little run,” she always meant at least three miles. I would answer with as much enthusiasm as I could fake. “Sure, Beth. I’ll be right over.” I would walk my pear-shaped body to our meeting spot and do my best to keep up.

Because of my friend Beth, I can say I once ran a 15k race. We took an end-of-said-race photo. Beth’s smiled wide, arms spread in victory, still doe-prancing through the finish line and looking ready for another nine miles. I looked like I needed a stretcher. At least I finished.

Thank goodness for the Beths in my world, because without them, I would likely be a hypocritical, non-dietitious slug.

No, I am no Beth. I do not enjoy running. I confess that in most circumstances, I don’t have the discipline to exercise by myself.

What I do about not liking exercise.

Exercise is important. Countless studies show that exercise is one of the most important things you can do to maintain quality of life. Blah, blah, blah.

When you’re not a Beth, to stay fit you have to do at least one of these things:

  • Find a Beth in your neighborhood. After the Navy moved us away from my enthusiastic friend, I had to find another plan, or another Beth. I didn’t know a soul, but I made this happen by starting an informal walking group in my neighborhood. It was so easy. I simply asked other ladies at a local meeting who would like to join. You should have seen it! All of the doe ears in the room perked up, heads swiveling toward me. As if I were Snow White calling them to the glen, the neighborhood Beths emerged from the crowd. I don’t have to do anything now but wait for a text from a neighbor, initiating our walks. I found a way to stay fit and make friends at the same time. Sometimes I’m just brilliant

  • Find something you actually do love to do. It’s out there. You may need to search a bit like I have. Running is not that thing for me. It bores me unless I’m with a friend who likes to run and chit-chat. Spin class makes my hoo-ha hurt. Swimming? Bathing suits are a deterrent. TRX was sort-of okay. But then, I found my thing: pickleball. I love it, I’ll go play it, no Beth required. I’d even be your Beth for a game of pickleball!

So go on. Find your Beth or find your pickleball. If I can, you can. 

What tips do you have to stay exercise-motivated? 


Confession #2: Cake

Confession #2: I Eat Chocolate Cake.

Yes, I love chocolate in almost any form, especially cake. If you offer a fresh piece to me at any point in time, I guarantee that I will accept with pleasure. It’s the same truth for pizza, ice cream with sprinkles, donuts, and many adult beverages. You get the point.

Am I ashamed of this? Nope. Not one bit. Well, maybe the sprinkles, but honestly none of the rest.

You see, I believe in living life to its fullest. In my opinion, that means enjoying treats.

I also believe that to live life to its fullest, I need to remain healthy. So, as much as I’d like to eat chocolate cake every day, I don’t. But how does a person like me who loves treats avoid eating too many? 

How I avoid eating too much chocolate cake

It’s not easy, but it is simple. I don’t keep these things in the house. I figured this method out all  by myself, no dietetic’s degree necessary, just because I know how weak my willpower is.

But dietitians can’t just tell people to do what has worked for themselves in the past. We have to provide evidence-based information to our clients.

My method was validated by the book, Mindless Eating, written by a researcher, Brian Wansink, at Cornell University. Have you ever had a moment when you agreed with someone so much you wanted to cheer and do a little cartwheel? I probably shouldn’t try a cartwheel anymore, but that’s how I felt. His book immediately became a favorite of mine and eventually a favorite of many of my clients. I call it “my favorite diet book because it’s not really a diet book.”

In summary, the book is a compilation of simple studies observing oblivious people eating. It explains the psychology of why we eat the way we do, and some tricks our minds play on us. One study showed that if you put terrible tasting popcorn in front of people, they will still eat it just because it’s in front of them. They will complain while they eat it, but they will still eat it. AND the larger the amount offered, the more people will eat.

Fascinating. It helps explain why when we bring the warehouse-sized junk food bag to the couch, it’s gone before the movie is over. We may not even remember enjoying it.

Put a healthy twist on that, and it also explains why the plate of raw veggies I set out for my family disappears while I’m cooking dinner, even as my darlings complain about how long it’s taking me to cook dinner. Ha! And I was just trying to keep them from digging for nutrition-sparse appetisers.

So I keep the treats out of the house, and I keep the healthy food inside the house. If I decide I want a treat, I plan it. I go out and get it, or I find a recipe and make it myself, with bonus points if I make it delicious and a bit healthier. This means the treat is an effort, not an easy, mindless grab. And when I sit down to enjoy my treat, I really think about how much I’m enjoying it. I savor it with someone I enjoy being with, creating an entire mini-experience for myself. I try to be mindful about every bite or sip.

I encourage my clients to do the same thing, within the limits of their own health restrictions, of course. Some dietitians call this the 90/10 rule: 90 percent of the time, eat healthfully. The other percent goes to the favorites that might enrich life even more than just living as simply a health nut.

What are some tricks that you use to help keep your family eating healthy?